Last September, I shared our position (see here) on non-native invasive species and the new draft European regulation designed to address the serious threat they pose to wildlife and economies. Like flooding and climate change, this is another issue where it pays to take action to prevent bad things occurring rather than wait and pick up the costs of the consequences (relevant to today's announcement by the Prime Minister at PMQs today - see here).
Yet, it seems that, despite the best intentions, tough new rules to prevent non-native invasive species causing problems are being watered down by a powerful lobby of vested interests.
We had been working with our colleagues in Birdlife International to strengthen the legislation and get rid of the arbitrary cap of 50 in the list of species on which action could be taken. We have also been calling for a better set of arrangements to assess risk and ensure that costs associated with any clean up of the damage rests with those liable for causing the problem in the first place i.e. to apply the polluter-pays principle.
So what's happened?
A proposal from Denmark to protect the fur industry interests is now set to derail the best of European intentions. Denmark, much loved home of Borgen, Sara Lund and progressive economy etc, has managed to introduce a permit system in the draft that was rapidly taken up by other Member States and their supportive MEPs.
The new system would allow commercial cultivation of plants and commercial breeding of animals (including fish, reptiles or amphibians) to contine provided those species have a high economic, social or environmental value. This means that, if the proposal is adopted, the American mink industry in Denmark, the bioenergy industry in Germany, the horticultural industry in the UK and the pet trade all over Europe would be able to continue to trade in species irrespective of their invasive qualities and the risks they may pose. This proposed derogation in Eurospeak is the mother of all "get out of jail" free cards.
This would completely undermine the rationale for the new regulation, a rationale that has emerged following almost a decade of discussion among experts, member states and the Commission:1. That action is taken to control those species deemed to be of EU based on a transparent and scientific understanding of risk.. 2. That preventing damage is far better, and far, far cheaper, than attempting to solve problems after they have occurred. 3. That the draft legislation must seek to secure balanced but effective action on the most damaging and costly species.
This is a mess. A plan to act in the public good is threatened to be undermined by private interests. On Friday, the Member States will be meeting to discuss these proposals. We hope they see sense and enter into discussions with the Parliament and Commission to unpick this and put the regulation back on track so that it actually helps to relieve the threats that non-native invasive species pose.
Oh, and when it comes to the European elections in June, please do have higher expectations of your candidate MEPs. Urge them to use their voice for nature.
Photo credit: American mink geting stuck into a juvenile gannet (John Anderson): The European Commission is using the American mink as a symbol of invasive alien species on its dedicated web site . It has been listed as one of the 100 worst invasive alien species in Europe. We know how it gets here – importation for fur farming. Its ability to escape from captivity into the wild is also well understood and has occurred on many occasions. Its impact on native mammals and birds – especially the water vole, seabirds and waders, all groups that are severely affected by additional environmental pressures – is indisputable, as is the impact on poultry and fish farming. One estimate puts the associated costs of mink in Germany alone at 4,200,000 Euro (see here).
Bob, you are spot on. Your MEP's are chosen from regional lists. However, even if one of your MEPs -or MEP candidates- doesn't live in Wilts they still represent you. MEPs are amongst the most important decision makers on environmental issues so we encourage people to show their strength of feeling on such issues by getting in touch with as many of their representatives as possible. We do the same by writing to, and meeting, candidates and talking about the challenges to the natural environment.
Its worth being aware that candidates from some parties informally divide their regions up between them.
If you're feeling particularly active, do drop your current MBob, you are spot on. Your MEP's are chosen from regional lists. However, even if one of your MEPs -or MEP candidates- doesn't live in Wilts they still represent you. MEPs are amongst the most important decision makers on environmental issues so we encourage people to show their strength of feeling on such issues by getting in touch with as many of their representatives as possible. We do the same by writing to, and meeting, candidates and talking about the challenges to the natural environment.
If you're feeling particularly active, do drop your current MEPs a line to ask them to get in touch with their colleagues who are controlling this draft piece of EU legislation. They need to hear that people care.
Good luck and let me know how ambitious your candidates are.
It just seems incredible that one group of commercial interest can derail a long over due piece of Europe wide legislation. The costs of combating invasive species across Europe must far surpass that of a sectional interest like the one you mention. One is just amazed that, supposedly intelligent MEPs, (or perhaps they are not very intelligent!!)and others in Brussels cannot see this. No wonder Europe is in such a mess when this is an example of decision making.
As Bob says how is it best to pressurise these MEP candidates etc?
Martin, Perhaps I should know but I don't really; how do we place pressure on Candidates in a European Election. Unless they are independent you can't vote for an individual and they simply get elected from a regional party list. For example if I vote in North Wilts, my MEPs when elected could live in Devon. Does the RSPB and other NGOs have a way in to speak the candidates
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